Are you getting ready to get a new puppy and have a new family member? Pet owners are naturally both excited and a little nervous, especially if this is your first puppy. Here is everything you need to know to provide a happy, healthy home for your new best friend.
Preparing your home for a puppy
Newborn puppies need their mother, and if the puppy is born in your home, you can primarily let the mom do all the hard work. Otherwise, puppies shouldn't be separated from their mother before they are 8 weeks of age, so it's best to wait until that point to bring them home.
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You'll want to prepare a safe, warm indoor space for your puppy. Young puppies should not be kept outside. Since they can't properly regulate their body temperature, being outside can be fatal.
Puppy-proofing the home
It's a good idea to puppy-proof your home and yard. This is especially important for first-time puppy parents.
- Unplug electrical cords or place them out of reach.
- Place breakable items out of reach.
- Make sure human food is contained and out of reach.
- Put away medications and cleaning supplies.
- Keep windows and doors closed.
- Remove poisonous houseplants.
- Ensure there are no small objects lying around that your puppy may chew or ingest.
Puppy-proofing the yard
- Make sure your puppy cannot get to any plants that are toxic for dogs.
- Secure fences and gates.
- If you have a pool, create a barrier around it so the puppy cannot fall in.
Naming your new puppy
You might be inspired to name your dog after a favorite celebrity, travel destination, food, or drink. Or you might have no idea what you want to call your pup. It's a good idea to choose a name that is usually a maximum of two syllables and is easy for your dog to understand. Avoid names that sound similar to common command words. Also, choose a word you'll enjoy saying many, many times a day!
Choosing puppy food
Diet and nutrition are so important for growing puppies. In their first year, puppies need about twice as many calories per pound of body weight as adult dogs. Discuss diet with your veterinarian and educate yourself by reading nutrition labels closely. Choose a puppy food specifically formulated for puppies that is high in protein and rich in nutrients, like DHA (an omega-3 fatty acid).
It's best to avoid generic dog foods, and it's also not a good idea to feed your puppy table scraps. If you decide to feed your puppy homemade (or "human") food, it's essential that you follow a properly balanced recipe developed by a veterinary nutritionist.
Getting puppy supplies
A new puppy is a lot of work, and it will help to set up your puppy's new home for success, starting with a crate. Especially if they are trained early on, most puppies and dogs come to love being in their crate. You'll also need:
- A crate/kennel mat
- Additional bed(s)
- Food and water bowls
- Collar, harness, and leash
- Puppy food
- Lots and lots of chew toys
Don't forget to also stock up on cleaning supplies so you're prepared for any accidents or puppy messes that may occur.
Your puppy's first vaccinations should be administered when they are about 6 to 8 weeks of age. Avoid socialization with other dogs, for instance with friends' dogs or at the dog park, until your puppy has had their vaccinations. Standard puppy vaccines include:
- Canine distemper
- Parainfluenza virus
Other vaccines are also available depending on your veterinarian's recommendations. Your veterinarian will set a schedule for booster shots, and your adult dog will receive their vaccinations annually. You should also discuss deworming, microchipping, and when to spay or neuter your puppy.
Puppy training and bonding
A huge part of puppy care is forming a bond, and a huge part of that involves training. In addition to affection and snuggles, dog training is key to building trust, confidence, and a great relationship.
Crate training your puppy provides them with a safe, warm, and calm space and helps with housebreaking. These tips will help you with the process:
Choose the right size and style of crate.
Begin by encouraging them into the crate for short lengths of time
when they're calm.
Slowly increase the increments of time in the crate.
Reward your puppy for going into the crate.
Help them avoid accidents by taking them out often.
Remove their collar when your pup is in the crate.
Be patient. Crate training can take up to six months.
Potty training your puppy will most likely be a big priority. It's natural for dogs to relieve themselves outdoors away from their living space, and there are a few things to keep in mind as you work on house training:
- Use the crate.
- Know a puppy needs to potty very often.
- Stick to a routine.
- Praise and reward your puppy after they potty outside.
- Never punish your puppy for accidents.
Whether you use clicker training, take your puppy to training classes, or just use a basic reward system at home, training is most successful when it's all about positive reinforcement. Keep training sessions fun and simple and always end a session on a "win" when your puppy exhibits a behavior you're asking for. The commands that you'll likely find most useful in creating a happy, calm, and safe environment for you and your dog are:
- Recall ("come")
- Leave it
- Look at me
Depending on your dog's personality and your lifestyle, you may want to train them how to calmly greet visitors, to retrieve, to take it and drop it … the possibilities really are endless.
The bottom line
Bringing a new puppy home is one of the most exciting life events there is! It's certainly a lot of work, and it requires patience. But dog owners who put in the time and effort, from nutrition to training to veterinary care, will be rewarded exponentially with so many years of companionship, smiles, and unconditional love.